St. Louis Cardinals: Two Pitchers Named Among Baseball’s Best
This past week, Buster Olney of ESPN named St. Louis Cardinals pitchers Seung-Hwan Oh and Carlos Martinez among baseball’s best entering 2017.
Buster Olney began the third installment of his top ten positional rankings (ESPN Insider) by listing the top ten starting pitchers and relievers in the game heading into the 2017 season. Two St. Louis Cardinals were mentioned, with Seung-Hwan Oh cracking the top ten relievers and Carlos Martinez garnering an honorable mention among starters.
While Olney only briefly mentions Martinez, he notes that “[Martinez] took another step forward in 2016, naturally ascending into the role of the St. Louis ace.” This praise follows a season which saw Martinez lead all St. Louis Cardinals pitchers with 3.3 fWAR.
Among Cardinals starters, Martinez finished second with 195.1 innings pitched, a career high and trailed only Adam Wainwright. His 3.04 ERA and 3.61 FIP led the starting staff (excluding Alex Reyes) by a wide margin. He continued to hone a pitch-to-contact strategy by inducing ground balls at a career high rate, which limited his pitch count and allowed him to pitch deeper into games.
While it remains to be seen who will earn the opening day start in 2017, Martinez certainly made his case this past season. While he may not have the pedigree of Adam Wainwright, Martinez is clearly the St. Louis Cardinals best pitcher heading into next year.
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Among relief pitchers, Buster Olney ranked Seung-Hwan Oh 9th in all of baseball. He notes that Oh “may have been the best value-to-dollar acquisition” in last off-season’s free agency. Furthermore, he mentions Oh’s hefty workload (his 79.2 innings ranked 7th most among relievers) and his miniscule 5.72 K/BB ratio.
Oh finished second among all St. Louis Cardinals pitchers with a 1.92 ERA in 2016, trailing only rookie Alex Reyes. Additionally, his 2.13 FIP led the team and ranked 10th among all pitchers who tossed at least fifty innings.
Oh added much needed stability to the back end of the bullpen following Trevor Rosenthal’s early struggles. After taking over as the closer in July, Oh converted nineteen of twenty-two save opportunities. In a dominant stretch from August 3rd through the 30th, Oh made twelve consecutive appearances covering 15.2 innings without giving up a single earned or unearned run.
While the St. Louis Cardinals pitching left much to be desired (largely thanks to a poor defense), these two players shined in 2016. With another year under his belt and a better defense behind him, Martinez should build on his success again next year. For Seung-Hwan Oh, his $5 million, two-year deal looks like theft after Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon received a combined $228 million this year.